UN's Ban urges end to discrimination against Ebola workers

According to the latest World Health Organization figures, 7,373 people have died of Ebola in the three worst-affected countries, Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea.

UN's Ban urges end to discrimination against Ebola workers

World Bulletin/News Desk

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on Saturday urged countries affected by the Ebola virus to avoid discriminating against healthcare workers fighting to end the disease.

Ban was speaking in Guinea on the second day of a whistle-stop tour aimed at thanking healthcare workers of the countries at the heart of the epidemic.

The death toll from Ebola in the three worst-affected countries in West Africa has risen to 7,373 among 19,031 cases known to date there, the World Health Organization said on Saturday.

The latest data, posted overnight on the WHO website, reflected nearly 500 new deaths from the worst ever outbreak of the hemorrhagic fever in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone since previous WHO figures were issued on Dec. 17.

Sierra Leone accounts for the most cases, 8,759, against 7,819 for Liberia. But Sierra Leone's death toll of 2,477 is far less than 3,346 recorded in Liberia, leading some experts to question the credibility of the figures reported by Freetown.

Sierra Leone's government this week launched a major operation to contain the epidemic in West Africa's worst-hit country.

President Ernest Bai Koroma said on national television that travel between all parts of the country had been restricted as part of "Operation Western Area Surge", and public gatherings would be strictly controlled in the run-up to Christmas.

Sierra Leone's leading doctor, Victor Willoughby, died of Ebola on Thursday, hours after the arrival in the country of an experimental drug that could have been used to treat him, the government's chief medical officer said.

Ban's tour began in Liberia and Sierra Leone on Friday and will end later on Saturday in Ghana, site of the U.N. Ebola response mission (UNMEER), after a visit to Mali.

"There should be no discrimination for those who have been working or helping with Ebola. Those people are giving all of themselves," Ban told U.N. officials in Conakry.

His comments follow a meeting on Friday in which Rebecca Johnson, a Sierra Leonean nurse who caught the virus, recounted how she fell gravely ill, recovered and is now back treating Ebola patients.

Ban said he was moved by Johnson's story that she still faced a stigma as a survivor.

UNMEER is a short-term mission and Ban said he hoped its work would be done in a year from its formation last September.

UNMEER set an initial Dec. 1 target of getting 70 percent of Ebola patients in treatment and 70 percent of bodies safely buried, but Ban said the m

"My intention is not to keep UNMEER longer than one year. If that isn't the case, people will regard it as a failure," Ban said.

The number of new cases is slowing in Guinea and Liberia but Sierra Leone launched a campaign around the capital this week to bring a rapid increase in transmissions there under control.

Güncelleme Tarihi: 20 Aralık 2014, 16:11

Muhammed Öylek